I didn’t know about the new Presidential organic, sustainable vegetable garden project at the White House until we happened across the mansion on our holiday visit to the nation’s capital. While admiring the famous view, I spied a small sign indicating “White House Kitchen Garden.” How interesting!
Subsequently, I’ve done some research. It seems that under the direction of the First Lady, numerous beds have been developed and planted to various veggies for the Obama family’s personal use, for donations to local Washington charities and even for meals at important state and diplomatic dinners! So everyone is involved in this praiseworthy endeavor, which obviously has international implications.
Elementary school kids helped with the initial planting and of course there’s a huge White House staff that performed much of the planning and a lot of the rougher labor. There’s a really nifty film that shows how the garden was developed. Apparently they’ve even used some seeds from Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello. We’ve had the distinct pleasure of touring those in Charlottesville, which we highly recommend to you all.
Started in March 2009, a New York Times article quotes Michelle Obama, ‘“My hope,” … “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”’
It is simply marvelous that the Obamas are taking a good look at nutrition, health and the environment (as the garden is organic, sustainable and local). This is also excellent modeling for all of us. Involving the entire Obama clan with the garden project, making a point of working and dining together, and underscoring the benefits of regular consumption of fruits and veggies are all powerful messages.
Wikipedia says about America’s Garden, “This L- shaped 1,100-square-foot (100 m2) garden is located by the mansion’s tennis courts and can be seen from E street.” I don’t think that I saw much beyond the little sign and perhaps the edge of some of their plots. And unfortunately, the WC crew wasn’t invited for the tour, either. Boo-hoo! We’re still waiting for our official e-vites, which I’m certain will arrive any day now
There have been other presidents who farmed the White House property. The last serious veggie project was the Victory Garden planted by the Roosevelt’s in the 1940’s during the severe food shortages caused by the war effort. Then the idea was for all Americans to create their own “victory gardens” to supplement their diets.
In the video, Michelle Obama says, “So the garden is really an important introduction to what I hope will be a new way that our country thinks about food.”
If we said something like that, probably nobody would hear, but this is the First Family we’re talking about, so everything’s public and politically charged. As you might expect, this organic garden at the White House got some push-back by big agro and fertilizer companies. The New York Times had a refreshingly different spin, offering an alternative planting model based not on the actual garden, but on how the country subsidizes agriculture: suddenly it’s corn, corn, corn; rice, rice; cotton, cotton, cotton; with a bit of wheat thrown in there for good measure. Say goodbye to kohlrabi, pak choi, rhubarb, endive and spinach.
I was a bit dismayed the read that President Obama isn’t a beet man. Well, nobody’s perfect, I guess.
If you’ve been following this blog, then you probably know that we have a small community garden plot. To be honest, I was pretty ambivalent about it at the start. It is so much work (at least at first). But as we’ve cleared our tiny plot; built a new fence; planted, grown and harvested a few seasons of crops already, it seems positively magical. I thrill to serve things that we’ve grown ourselves. Plus it truly makes you appreciate those “real” farmers all the more. Finally, there’s genuine pleasure to be found in simply watching beautiful things grow that you’re confident will nourish you and your loved ones time and again.
So our advice? Follow Michelle Obama’s lead and get gardening!